Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lust for Life

An excellent biopic about Van Gogh. More than his life, it's a film that captures to an extent the transcendence of his painting. It is liberally interspersed with the canvases and the camera's palette imitates that of the painter. These paintings along with the environments in which they were created as well as the joyful musical score lead you into the universe of the artist. The main events and people in his life are presented in a straight forward way, and the narrative and excitement never flag.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Money 1983

A good man is transformed into a brutal criminal. The film is pure crystal: all that can be sheared is excised. A truthful person need not act. The absence of acting and expressed emotion does not imply none is conveyed: the camera itself  becomes a beast of coiled fury. Objectivity is what Bresson aims at. In telling a powerful tale, Bresson gives a cold visual narrative. Speech is minimal and monotone. Finally he gives us an experience of taut power, a story that is as incomprehensible as reality itself. Could this happen to anyone?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Devil, probably...1977

Bresson, at age 70. A young man contemplates suicide. He finds life a demeaning reality. What is life, he asks? Insurance, a nine to five job, raising children, credit cards, installments, taxes, children etc He sees nature being wasted to technology, nuclear radiation hazards, missiles. The "masterpiece" is the thermonuclear weapon, capable of killing twenty million at one stroke. Yet he is not able to do it, to drown or shoot himself. Suicide is difficult, a psychoanalyst tells him, and that is why the Romans asked a friend to do it. But, he says, death appals him no less than life. Loss of life-force, sight, hearing, thought. A chilling film, and Bresson brings on the ultimate dilemma with great force, in his usual style of expressionless actor-models. A great film.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Haider2014..semi Bollywood

This brave new made by India Hamlet is the third in Vishal Bhardwaj's trilogy of films based on the plays. The constraints due to  audience expectation as well as Vishal's own artistic powers show through. As a cinema craftsman he catches the snow blanketed valley as well as the nuances of speech and accent and depths of Kashmiri culture. As a dramatist he manages to transmute the great play in which the particulars are reshaped but nearly all the contours are clearly preserved in splendid refraction. The political backdrop is incidental in this essentially human revenge drama. The fratricide and maternal infidelity is captured with great power. But Haider is no introspective and complex Hamlet: he is boy who explodes into manhood in the quest for revenge. To paraphrase a reviewer " may be deficient in the Hamlet department but it gives good Gertrude." Tabu is indeed in complete command of her role. What remains most in my mind is the intoxicating snow enveloped landscape and what I can only call the soul of this place I once visited in the depth of winter.

The climactic "pile of corpses" sequence is wonderful; it takes place in a Muslim snow clad graveyard sprawling with some dozens of bodies, and with many a twist of plot we see Ghazala aka Gertrude self immolating, not for political reasons but as an act of penitence.

Chutzpah: the pleading for mercy by a person who has killed his parents on the grounds that he is an orphan.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fanny and Alexander 1982

The luxuriant richness of life is captured through this portrait of a not very extra-ordinary (yet extraordinary in the sense that nothing is ordinary) family set in a horse-carriage era at the previous turn of century. It stands apart from the genre which has earned the director the nick name of "gloomy Swede". This is an exuberant film filled with joy, pain and mystery, specially when it sees life through the eyes of Alexander, the teenage boy who occupies the most space in the film. Alexander may be a parody on Hamlet, with a full fledged father-ghost, and a mother who marries a loathsome priest, but the movie ends, not in a pile of dead bodies, but the birth of three babies, two of them twins. Bergman liberally sprinkles the supernatural specially representing the pain, wonder and mystery seen through Alexander's eyes. He perhaps is the Bergman autobiographical prototype. It could well be Bergman's best film, made in his sixties, a picture painted by a person who has sipped deeply and richly, and meant to be, but was not, his final movie.